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Foundation skills:


Strong foundational skills, namely literacy and numeracy skills, but also digital and financial literacy, are extremely important for most jobs in the knowledge economy. Foundation skills underpin the productivity of Australia’s workforce and are instrumental in ensuring workers have the ability to upskill.

Training for foundation skills is undertaken through the Foundation Skills Training Package which is developed by the Education Industry Reference Committee.

Recent feedback from industry and providers indicate that the Foundation Skills Training Package is currently failing to provide foundation skills to learners, and the training package is currently being reviewed in an attempt to address this.

Industry skills needs

Generic skills

In their 2018 Skills Forecasts, IRC’s ranked a series of 12 generic skill categories, in priority order.

Language, Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) (which aligns directly with Foundation skills) received an average ranking of 5th (out of 12) across all skills forecasts.


Priority skills

Foundation skills were also identified to a moderate degree by industries that reported on priority skills in their 2018 Skills Forecasts.

The three foundation skills identified most frequently were:

  • Reading comprehension, identified by the following industry sectors:

    • Community Sector and Development
    • Dental
    • Technicians Support Services
    • Retail and Wholesale
  • Writing, identified by the following industry sectors:

    • Client Services
    • Community Sector and Development
    • Retail and Wholesale
  • English language, identified by the following industry sectors:

    • Enrolled Nursing
    • Tourism Travel and Hospitality.

In addition, general foundation skills were requested in the following industry sectors:

  • Metal, Engineering and Boating
  • Automotive
  • Children’s Education and Care.



Internet job postings

Foundation skills are also highly sought after by employers when recruiting new workers. In particular, writing skills have been one of the top 10 most frequently requested skills in internet job postings across different industries and occupations from 2014 to 2017.

The chart below compares the percentage of internet job postings in each occupation (ANZSCO Major Group) that requested writing skills. The percentage of all internet job postings that requested this skill is also included for comparison.

Internet job postings that requested writing skills, by occupation (2014-17) 

Source: Data supplied by Burning Glass Technologies (2018).

Case studies


According to the Skills Forecasts, the Automotive industry consists of 11 industry sectors (and five IRCs), which identify foundation skills as a priority for their workforce. Industry sectors include:
  • Automotive Electrical
  • Automotive Mechanical and Specialisation
  • Automotive Mechanical Heavy
  • Automotive Sales, Parts Administration and Management
  • Automotive Vehicle Body Repair
  • Automotive Vehicle Manufacturing
  • Bicycles, Marine, Motorcycle and Outdoor Power Equipment

The following quote is from the Automotive IRC Skills Forecast:

Foundation skills, such as language, literacy, writing, numeracy and employability were listed as necessary skills for nearly all sectors in the industry.

The Automotive IRC Skills Forecast also gives some examples of how foundation skills are necessary to operate effectively in the workplace:

  • Language and communication – in order to be able to communicate effectively with increasingly informed consumers
  • Literacy – to read manufacturers specifications and complete repairs according to OEM requirements
  • Writing – to record procedures and provide evidence of following protocols
  • Numeracy – to utilise diagnostic scanning tools, data interpretation and to understand safe working practices.

(Automotive IRC’s 2018 Skills Forecast)

Updated: 17 Dec 2018
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